Stations Settle With FCC Over Lapses in Emergency Coverage

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Three more stations have settled with the FCC over allegations they failed to provide sufficient emergency information to hearing-impaired viewers during emergency broadcasts.

Midwest Television Inc., the owner of KFMB-TV San Diego ; Waterman Broadcasting, the owner of WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, Fla.; and Montclaire Communications, the owner of and WZVN-TV in Naples, Fla., have agreed to pay $18,000 apiece and take remedial measures.

The consent decree does not require stations to admit any wrongdoing, but it does require them to closed-caption their local news, including any extended emergency coverage; to have a speed dial programmed with the phone numbers of caption writers for easy access; and to institute and publicize an emergency visual presentation policy including, when necessary, crawls, scrolls, or "handwriting on a blackboard."

KFMB was cited for their emergency coverage of the wildfires in October 2003, while the Florida stations were cited for coverage of Hurricane Charley in August 2004.

Broadcasters have complained that getting cited by the FCC for brief lapses in what are sometimes days worth of often lifesaving wall-to-wall coverage-- including information provided by staffers risking their own safety--could be a disincentive to such emergency coverage.

A San Diego station cited for lapses has called the FCC policy "crazy" and fought its proposed fine.

Others, however, have paid up to sponge the black mark from their station ownership files.